Date: Saturday/Sunday 20th/21st October 2012
Distance: 17km + 19.2km
Ascent: 1100m + 400m
Another week watching the forecasts – calm weather forecast but the areas with best chance of sun seemed to vary day to day. Plumped for the Cairngorms with variable results.
Braeriach is a deceptive hill – from Aviemore it looks reasonably close – in reality it’s just big and reasonably far away.
The SMC red route goes from the Sugar Bowl car park through the Chalamain Gap and up Sron na Lairig (alternatively starting at the W end of Loch Morlich). Other approaches include Gleann Einich via either a ridge of the Northern Corries or Coire Dhondail or Glen Feshie via the Moine Mhor.
On the last day of Stag stalking we noted that there’s recognised access along Gleann Einich and up Coire Dhondail so we thought we’d try that, given an 8 year hiatus since our last use of this approach.
The track then carries on south into Gleann Einich, initially through more pinewoods and then on into open glen. Paused a while to watch the birds – Coal, Great and Crested Tits were working through the Caley Pines.
Thereafter Gleann Einich opens out into a broad, flat glen – a huge glacial trench. The track is reasonable foot quality and progress is rapid down the glen. Passed an estate Landie, presumably the stalkers were elsewhere. Views to the cliffs of Sgoran Dubh Mor and Sgor Gaoith are impressive.
All of the Northern Coires of Braeriach appear as scallops up from about 800m elevation, presumably the origins of the glaciation of the time, sat next to the huge Einich gouge.
We wandered up hill to reach the Braeriach summit plateau – we’ve camped up there previously.
Not to be on this occasion – the summit was clagged and showed little sign of clearing. Dropped from Einich Cairn about 150m in height to find a pitch a bit lower at around 1100m elevation at NN 930 983.
Overflown by a pair of Golden Eagles – perhaps they thought there was gralloch to be had. Not too long after they’d sailed by a flock of around 15 ptarmigan whistled overhead in the opposite direction – didn’t like the company obviously.
Got up a few hours after sunset – a bit of a starscape to be seen – parts of Aviemore visible.
Slept pretty well – milder than expected and little wind. An occasional ptarmigan gargled after 0500 but other than that peace and quiet.
Our first fieldfares of the year flew over making their mad giggling noise.
We’d not been sure what we’d do – return direct or go via Sgor Gaoith or Braeriach. In the end we decided to go across Braeriach and try out a different return route.
Scoped out by a few ravens – they always seem to pop up and take a look. There were ptarmigan and hare prints here and there in the snow. The ptarmigan seem to have dug down to the vegetation at this point:
Headed across the Wells of Dee to the clifflines of the SW side of Braeriach. Unlike the bigger upland plateau on the E of Lairig Ghru, Braeriach is a relatively small plateau nibbled on nearly all sides by huge-cliffed coires (a fact that whispers in your ear if you ever cross it in a whiteout).
Already a few folks about – 1 guy with a camping pack behind us and a few others arriving from Sron na Lairig.
This worked rather well – quiet again but excellent underfoot terrain with very short scrub all the way to within about 750m of the track top at NH 935 027.
The whole descent was in pleasant sunshine. Once back at Gleann Einich it was a simple wander 2 hours back to the car. Stopped on a number of occasions to watch little birds. Spotted a single Highland Darter – too fast to snap but a welcome echo of summer.
I really like the Einich/Northern Coires routes to Braeriach – quiet and little-utilised. A bit longer than the red route – but particularly for cyclists probably the easiest available.
All in all not the most eye-catching conditions but our first high Cairngorms camping venture in a while. A taste of snow was a welcome appetiser too.